Declaration of Causes and Necessities (1775)


In July 1775 the second Continental Congress passed a set of resolves called the Declaration of the Causes and Necessities for taking up Arms. In this document, Congress explained its reasons for military preparation and mobilisation, and pledged to maintain the war until the British parliament removed its impositions on the American colonies:


“Our forefathers, inhabitants of the island of Great-Britain, left their native land to seek on these shores a residence for civil and religious freedom. At the expense of their blood, at the hazard of their fortunes, without the least charge to the country from which they removed, by unceasing labor and an unconquerable spirit, they effected settlements in the distant and inhospitable wilds of America, then filled with numerous and warlike nations of barbarians. Societies or governments, vested with perfect legislatures, were formed under charters from the crown; and a harmonious intercourse was established between the colonies and the kingdom from which they derived their origin.

The mutual benefits of this union became in a short time so extraordinary as to excite astonishment. It is universally confessed that the amazing increase of the wealth, strength and navigation of the realm arose from this source; and the minister… publicly declared that these colonies enabled [Britain] to triumph over her enemies [in the French and Indian War].

Towards the conclusion of that war, it pleased our sovereign to make a change in his counsels [ministers]. From that fatal moment, the affairs of the British empire began to fall into confusion, gradually sliding from the summit of glorious prosperity to which they had been advanced…

Parliament was influenced to assume a new power over [the colonies]… They have undertaken to give and grant our money without our consent… statutes have been passed for extending the jurisdiction of courts of admiralty and vice-admiralty beyond their ancient limits… for suspending the legislature of one of the colonies; for interdicting all commerce to the capital of another; and for altering fundamentally the form of government established by charter… for exempting the “murderers” of colonists from legal trial, and in effect, from punishment…

In brief, a part of these colonies now feel, and all of them are sure of feeling… the complicated calamities of fire, sword, and famine. We are reduced to the alternative of choosing an unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated ministers, or resistance by force. The latter is our choice. We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery. Honour, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors…

Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable… With hearts fortified with these animating reflections we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare that exerting the utmost energy of those powers which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves…

We have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great Britain and establishing independent states. We fight not for glory or for conquest. We exhibit to mankind the remarkable spectacle of a people attacked by unprovoked enemies, without any imputation or even suspicion of offence…

In our own native land, in defence of the freedom that is our birthright, and which we ever enjoyed till the late violation of it – for the protection of our property, acquired solely by the honest industry of our forefathers and ourselves, against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms. We shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed, and not before.”

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